A journey to the Sinai

 

In less than a week,  three UK Friends will be heading, via Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh, to St Catherine’s and the Sinai Trail, Egypt’s first long-distance walking trail  .

This is more than just a walk: the Friends are investigating how best to deliver support to Beduin families along the trail.  The Beduin tribes – along with their nomadic culture – have suffered badly since tourism collapsed in the Egyptian peninsula  in 2015 and, with it much of the Beduin’s income-earning potential as guides in the Sinai.

New enterprises such as the Sinai Trail are a way to recover but they need support to make them happen.  A fundraising drive this year among Muslim organisations and individuals in the UK has raised the money to provide some needed food aid and help build a well, organised by the Makhad Trust.

This is an exploratory journey. If the initiative is successful, expect to see more and find out how to get involved. Meanwhile, follow our news and, we expect,  see stunning photos as we visit this startlingly beautiful region of the Middle East.

Below is a selection of photos from a  journey on the Sinai Trail made in 2016 by Louise, one of the UK Friends, who will be in the group for this visit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the 1000 mile walk begins

Leon McCarron and Dave Cornthwaite, two British adventurers who have set off to walk 1000 miles of the Abraham Path are now well on their way.  Here is the first blog from Leon.

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Hi folks,

I’m writing to you from the Nablus region of Palestine, just one week into a 3 month, 1000 mile walking journey in the heart of the Middle East.

 There is a website for the journey here, and my first blog post about getting started here. For the latest news in bitesize chunks, be sure to also follow on:
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

So far, Palestine has been everything I’d hoped for: beautiful, hospitable and full of surprises. The walking has been tough at times – some huge ascents in the wadis of the Jericho region – but always worth it. There’s an incredible amount of stories here; each little village we pass through seems steeped in historical significance. In short – so far, so good!

You can read my thoughts on the politics of the region here. If gear is more your thing, then here’s a rundown on what we’re taking with us. If you’re involved with a school in any way, then the educational side of our project might be of interest. Check it out here!

I’ll send out another update just before Christmas with news on where I’ve got to. In the meantime, the picture above (and my Instagram feed) should give a good idea of where I am!

That’s it for now from Palestine – I’ll be in touch soon with more stories from my adventures on the masar!

Cheers!

Leon

Walk in the Negev

We had to postpone the planned UK Friends’ walk this autumn due to the walk leader encountering some family challenges that had to be dealt with.  We are hoping to re-instate this walk for the Spring of 2016.

Here is the outline itinerary. As usual, we have tried to add that little bit of something special to help us get to know both place and people in our walks.

Drop an email to info@abrahampath.org.uk if you might like to join us.

2014 Annual Report – Public Benefit Statement

The following Statement of Public Benefit is an extract from the 2014 Annual Report and Accounts of the UK Friends of Abraham’s Path.

Click Here to read the Review of the Year or  2014 Annual Report & Accounts to download the full document.

PUBLIC BENEFIT STATEMENT

UK Friends of Abraham’s Path provides information and educational materials to the public about routes of walking and pilgrimage in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean where the story of Abraham can be followed and about the contemporary significance of the Abrahamic story and in this way complies with its duty as set out in section 4 of the 2006 Charities Act. In 2014, we did this through:

  • leading a UK Friends journey with community service in the north of Jordan (May)
  • leading a walking tour in East London of places of Abrahamic significance (April)
  • supporting a second volunteering and walking tour in Israel and Palestine for university students from Leeds Beckett University (June)
  • providing sponsorship and information to participants of the Limmud Festival (August)
  • organising a talk and celebration of the Path and of Middle Eastern culture in Leeds to help students and others engage with some of the challenges of developing a trail and of walking in the Middle East and to reach new potential supporters and walkers
  • developing a new public website to disseminate information about the Path and offer opportunities for people in the UK to talk to walkers
  • helping to develop and disseminate a survey of people who have walked the Path to gather information about their experiences and what is important to walkers
  • continuing to distribute information via social media
  • research into potential funding sources for our work and for the development of the Path

Annual Review – from the 2014 Annual Report & Acounts

The following is extracted from the 2014 Annual Report  just published by the UK Friends of Abraham’s Path.

Click 2014 Annual Report & Accounts  to download a copy of the full document or here to read the Statement of Public Benefit.

Review of the Year

A journey in Jordan 

Our second UK-led journey took a mixed-age group of 12 people on an adventure to walk in northern Jordan, partly on the most well-established segment of the Abraham Path (first developed by a party of Jordanian and British students from Yarmouk and Leeds Metropolitan Universities in 2008, led by the API t team in north Jordan) and partly on new trail territory that has just opened up all the way north to Pella. It was a beautiful four days walking in varied landscapes from the hills of Ajloun down to the Jordan valley. However, for many of on the trip, arguably the most poignant memories arise from our three days of community service at the end of our walk. We spent one day in an ecological park helping prepare a garden and filling plastic bottles with sand to make a bird hide wall; then two days with Syrian refugees – at a tented village in South Amman and visiting some abandoned shacks near the border now housing ten families. A short account of the visit is given at the back of this report and there is a longer, very detailed account on our website.

A visit to the uk

In a turn of the tables, the UK Friends played host in May to a group from the Middle East in 2014. Four media students from Jenin University and their teacher Dr Rola Jadallah arrived in London for a packed week of activities. Coming from a very restricted background at home, they were eager for every experience, from a trip down Oxford Street to attending a village Church for Sunday Service. UK Friends Anam, Brendan and Rukiyah took them on a series of whistle stop tours around London while Louise provided beds and breakfast at home. Thanks to a generous donation from another UK Friend, we were able to fund their stay here – and we hope to have repaid at least some of the hospitality we experience on our trips to their home towns.

Student trip to Israel and Palestine

For the second year running Leeds Metropolitan University (now renamed Leeds Beckett) ran a student volunteering and walking trip to Israel and Palestine.  We were delighted to see this journey establish itself with on-the-ground leadership from Oriel Kenney as well as the student volunteering office. A re-design of the previous year’s experience to bring a little more balance refined the trip and it again achieving good support from the students. A detailed account of the trip by one of the participants is given at the back of this Report

Schoolchildren waving to walkers (left); media students from Jenin on the South Bank in London 

Outreach and education

With such good Path resources now available from the API’s online guide, The UK Friends decided it was time for a re-build and to focus our website on outreach.  We now have a simpler, easier to update website with a special page of the names and faces of people who are willing to talk to prospective travellers about their experiences and to help encourage self-organising travellers.

We were fortunate enough to attract a grant from SOAS to fund an intern to help us with outreach and even more fortunate to recruit Masters student Mia Tamarin to the role.  Regrettably the outbreak of conflict between Gaza and Israel just as Mia started with us led to a decision to postpone until a more auspicious time the direct outreach programme we had planned in order to recruit more Friends.  Instead Mia focussed on building a solid set of data for the future, supporting a traveller survey and research work being led by the API and organising in Leeds an information and celebration event for the end of her internship. With a lot of volunteer help, for which we are extremely grateful, this was a great success and had given us many new Friends who we hope will join us on future journeys.

Donations and funds

In the year ended December 31st 2014, the charity received donations of £4,295.

These donations have been used, primarily to fund the following:

  • Work on the UK Friends’ website
  • An information and celebration for the public held in Leeds
  • A visit to the UK for students from Jenin University
  • Programme work by the API and local partners in the Middle East, including support for hospitality and guide training

During the year we established with HMRC gift aid refunding. This enabled the charity to match fund a grant from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) for employing a student intern on a variety of community research and outreach projects.

We would like to thank all our donors for their great generosity which makes this possible.

We will continue to work with API to attract donations in the UK for our stated purposes.

Future priorities

The significant step forward made by the API in providing in-depth resource for travellers – including the extensive online guide with downloadable maps – means that some of the work of the UK charity will be rethought in 2015.  Our priorities are primarily outreach and education, journey design and helping support programme work in the Middle East.

The Path itself has gone through a time of change and challenge. On the one hand there has been extensive development and growth – there is nearly 1000 miles of trail to be walked now and countless connections have been made between diverse Middle Eastern communities and international travellers. The Path has attracted support from major international funders such as the World Bank, notable stories in the media (including being voted the No 1 new trail by National Geographic Traveller), and the attention of the international travel market.  On the other hand, the horrific outcomes of conflict – not least the Gaza War, which broke out literally as the Leeds Met students started home from Israel – has been a major setback to tourism and travel in the region.

So it is difficult right now to encourage and to lead the kind of journeys we hope British travellers will want to make:  journeys that deepen appreciation of this wonderful part of the world; journeys that connect us with the region’s endlessly hospitable and kind people; and journeys of self discovery as we face ourselves in the light of the reality we find when we visit.  However that IS our mission: it is unchanged and we will continue to seek ways to deliver.

Not a walk in the park

Abraham Path in Jordan
Exploring the Abraham Path in Jordan

On the coming Monday, we leave for the annual Abraham Path walk – this year from Dana (a nature reserve southwest of Amman) to Petra in Jordan.

I’m expecting our walk to be very special – and just a little bit scary. It will certainly be different to last year’s walk on the Al Alyoun Trail in the gentle greenery of northern Jordan.

The 5-day Dana to Petra trek is a part of Abraham Path and the Jordan trail and was rated as one of the world’s best hikes by National Geographic. The hike crosses spectacular scenery in southern Jordan, allowing us to experience the hospitality of the Bedouin and the heritage of the wild desert, and ends with walking into Petra, one of the seven new world wonders.

It has been explored and mapped recently by Experience Jordan in collaboration with the Abraham Path Initiative (API) and I am joining the other directors of the API to be among the first to walk it.  We have been told it is a spectacular addition to other sections of the path in Jordan and connects some of the most beautiful places of natural and cultural heritage.

I promised the UK Friends a 2015 Walk. This may be it – but I want to check it for myself first. Our itinerary will be quite demanding and we have been warned that only fit, experienced multi-day hikers should be taking part. Let’s hope I match up to it.  If it goes well, expect to hear from me encouraging you to join me for a re-visit.

The Itinerary: 

Day 1: Transfer to Dana.  Overnight in Dana Guest House.

Day 2: Hike from Dana to Feynan. Overnight in Feynan Eco-Lodge

Day 3: Drive from Feynan to Ras Al-Feid and hike to Gbour Whedat. Overnight camping in the wilderness.

Day 4: Hike from Gbour Whedat to Little Petra. Overnight camping in wilderness in an area called the West Mo’esrah.

Day 5: Hike from Little Petra to Petra. Dinner in a local family house – overnight in Movenpick!

Day 6: Hike in Petra, and transfer to Amman.

For those who would like to know more, you can find maps, elevation tables and more inspiration at http://abrahampath.org/path/dana/

Fundraising role to be established for Europe

To scale up operations and visibility in Europe, as well as help sustain the path in the Middle East, the Abraham Path Initiative is looking for a Fundraising Consultant to be based in the Netherlands who will start and co-lead fundraising efforts in Europe. The position requires significant fundraising experience, most prominently with philanthropic institutions such as foundations and at the governmental and inter-governmental (EU) level in Europe. Preferably, he/she also has expertise in the area of (major) individual gifts & pan-European philanthropy. He or she will work directly with API’s Executive Director (ED) in Rotterdam.

If you, or someone you know, might be interested – follow this link:

http://abrahampath.org/get-involved/jobs-and-volunteer-opportunities/fundraising-consultant/

If it seems this is not the time to go for a walk – that is just why we should

This blog on the current situation in the Middle East has been contributed by Mia Tamarin who has just completed an internship with the Abraham Path Initiative and the UK Friends, aimed at extending support for the path in the UK and co-ordinating the UK Friends activity. Mia was born and raised in Tel Aviv. She holds a degree in Peace studies & International Relations and a Masters in International Law. She is currently living and working in the UK.

The fragility of the current situation in the Middle East is exceptional in many ways. Large and ongoing processes that were not always present before – revolution and destruction alongside some state-building – are having an impact on the region as a whole.

However, to those living there everyday life cannot be ‘exceptional’. Especially now when the so-called Middle East ‘situation’ has lasted so long: it is not just out-of-the-ordinary to be engaged with political life – living within some sort of conflict, resistance, or struggle is, in this region, ordinary. This is not to normalise the harsh realities that are daily life for people. It is not ‘normal’ by any stretch of the imagination to exist in survival mode every day. No-one, no matter where from, should have to accept this as the ultimate reality of life.

Nonetheless, it is important that the rest of the world, and in particular those countries who play a big role in the region and are passionate to reach solutions, do not alienate the everyday reality for many. Life in the Middle East goes on: surviving crisis is part of the ordinary day’s work – and often the life-long project of people. There is no ‘putting things on hold’ when a particular conflict kicks off; the conflict becomes the reason to keep going. Life itself is the only stream of hope for many; who hold on to a vision that one day the struggle will end and another kind of living prevail. And we must also appreciate that there is no a-political for those who live there; all life is political in this part of the world. Even staying silent, for those who turn from expressing political views, is taking a strong political stance.

That life itself is hope allows those of us who wish to engage in the region – without engaging in its politics – potentially to have a more meaningful impact. It is precisely through locally-focused and sustainable developments such as the Abraham Path represents, that the region slowly transitions towards peace in its cultural and structural sense.

Our partners in Palestine have continued their work in developing the path and engaging with the local communities throughout the year. To do otherwise would mean giving in to violence. For us living in the region, this is what life is about. There will never be a ‘good time’ to go out to walk. And while our reality may never attain the standards or stability that outsiders deem normal, we can work together towards progressive change.

LB students return to Israel and Palestine

This blog post has been contributed by Sean, a Leeds Beckett student who participated in the 2014 volunteering/walking trip in Israel and Palestine, organised by the university and supported by the UK Friends.

The Israel and Palestine conflict has been one of the most important political and social issues of the last three decades or more. The conflict has been widely reported, so it is very prominent in minds of the public and the suffering of everyone involved in the conflict is clearer to see. The result is that many may feel they want to help relieve some of the suffering and contribute to building peace in the area.

The Abraham Path trail and community service scheme, run in the UK through Leeds Beckett University and the UK Friends of Abraham’s Path (UKFAP), enables individuals to work in groups in communities on projects aimed at creating the environment where dialogue and understanding can flourish. UKFAP also aim to facilitate dialogue at home.

Leeds Beckett and UKFAP organised a trip to Israel and Palestine in the summer of 2014 that involved a mixed schedule of volunteering, hiking and educational outings. The volunteering was based in two places; in a Bedouin community in the Negev desert and at a Christian farm just outside Bethlehem.

The Bedouin community in the Negev desert is increasingly being pushed in to a small area of the desert. As a semi nomadic people, this has become an issue. When they have tried to settle in traditional villages, their homesteads are considered illegal so that new houses are destroyed by the state. The volunteering project in this community was focused on finding a way to build new houses, cheaply, quickly and out of natural material. Our group was almost used to test this project, which a local Israeli hopes to extend across the Negev. Visiting this community can also be viewed as an act of solidarity, showing the Bedouin that they are not forgotten. Our hosts urged everyone who visited to go home and talk about their plight.

The second base for volunteering was in the Tent of Nations, a Christian Palestinian family farm that aims to bring a message of peace within the community. Surrounded by Israeli settlements, they are exercising their right to remain and their motto is “We refuse to be enemies‘’. Groups from all around the world (Including Israel) come to work on the farm, see the consequence of conflict first-hand and show solidarity with the family. The work that was undertaken involved planting a small vine yard, and clearing a stony area for further planting of crops.

I believe the Leeds Beckett/UKFAP volunteering opportunity is important. It enables everyone who goes on the trip to gain a fuller understanding of the conflict and history of the area. It also enables us to help in whatever way we can in bringing hope to the people of Israel and Palestine.

The trip lasted 2 weeks and involved 60 hours of volunteering. We stayed with local families in the Negev desert, and were able to wander around historic Jerusalem and the modern capital of Tel Aviv. Along our journey we were able to see a Palestine and Israel that most other visitors would not. We gained first-hand accounts from people from all walks of life about the conflict. We worked alongside activists on both sides of the conflict and local people. Abraham’s Path aims to give a powerful educational experience that means people bring home a fuller view on the culture of both Israel and Palestine – a view that has the potential change people’s lives.